US authorities say Fiat Chrysler engineers calibrated software in Ram and Jeep diesel vehicles to evade emissions test

A senior manager at Fiat Chrysler has been charged with misleading US environmental regulators in the scandal over the automaker's use of "defeat devices" to evade emissions tests, the US Justice Department announced Tuesday.

The company in January agreed to pay more than $500 million to settle the charges it intentionally manipulated software to allow its vehicles to spew more pollutants than allowed by law, and recalled 100,000 sold in the United States.

The Justice Department said in a statement that it charged Emanuele Palma, 40, an Italian citizen and resident of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, for "his alleged role in a conspiracy to mislead US regulators, customers and the public by making false and misleading statements."

Palma, resident of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, led a team of engineers in the United States responsible for developing and calibrating the 3.0-liter diesel engine used in certain FCA diesel vehicles, and adjusted the software to allow them to pass tests, the statement said.

US officials have said the FCA's EcoDiesel Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee for model years 2014-2016 were built with software designed to operate differently during emissions tests compared with real-world conditions.

Palma "is alleged to have knowingly misled EPA regulators to cover up illegal emissions control software installed in certain Fiat Chrysler diesel vehicles," said Susan Bodine of the Environmental Protection Agency.

A spokesman for the group in Italy told AFP: "We're just learning about the details of the matter.... We will continue to collaborate fully with the authorities."

The emissions scandal which started with Volkswagen has engulfed many automakers, including Daimler and BMW.